manuscript and notebook She Who Comes Forth work in progress

The Work Progresses

You would think by now it would be easy. After all, I’ve written and published five novels and a bunch of short stories. I have idea notes, planning notes, things-to-fix-in-the-rewrite notes, and problem-solving notes.

But writing the first draft is still hard. In fact, some days it’s a real struggle. And yet, it lurches forward.

The work in progress is a sequel, which complicates things. It means I have to know everything each character knows about all kinds of things. Who knows what? Who lied to whom? It’s amazing how many details I’ve forgotten from the previous book, even though I wrote it.

Some characters from the first book have changed quite a bit. I need to account for those changes–plausibly, and in a way that contributes to the plot.

It will be bad news if something I think is crucial for the sequel doesn’t line up with, or even contradicts, something important in the first book. (A good argument for writing both books before publishing the first one.)

Then there’s First Draft Daily Anxiety Syndrome. I’ve managed to keep up with the page a day resolution I made back in December, but knowing I have to put in the required time every day to crank out the next page or two can be a cloud on my horizon as I emerge gummy-eyed from sleep.

Strange thing, though: sitting down and picking up the pen has an almost magical effect. With only the vaguest idea of what is going to happen next, I start to write, and a scene unfolds, complete with details and nuances. (Whether it will stand the test of the rewrite is another issue.)

I’m 85% through the first draft and on schedule to finish it by the end of June. The trouble is, now that daylight arrives early and lingers late, the garden exercises its own allure. I may have to shift my writing sessions from first thing in the morning to what I call Glare Time, the hours between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the light is harsh and bright and the garden is devoid of magic.

Never mind–at least now I can finally see the day I’ll get this one off the ground!

hot air balloon on ground rainbow colours
Image from Pixabay

Fellow writers, I’m sure many of you have WIPs under way. What works for you? What gives you fits? Share your WIP woes and wins.

55 comments

    1. I actually use a pen on paper for the first draft, Wayne. Works for me. Once I think I’ve finished the story, I type it all into Word on my laptop. I used to write my college papers on a typewriter, though. I’m glad I learned to type properly; it’s been a useful skill all my life.
      Writing in the garden sounds like a good idea, but I know I’d be getting distracted all the time. Pull that weed! Water that wilting plant! And while you’re at it, do all these other jobs.

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      1. your a true writer Audrey!
        Also………If a bunny dropped in while you were out in the garden you’d be stymied as to wether you should shoo it away or pick it up!
        This just got a Alice In Wonderland flavour! Don’t follow the bunny!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Onwards, ever onwards and upwards Audrey.
    No matter how much you have written, every new project should be a challenge, filled with excitement, (and smidge of doubt to keep the feet on the ground, a small amount of doubt is good for balance and care).
    Sequels have all sorts of hidden traps. Yes, there is the dread Continuity. Having to make sure why A is at B for a good reason and a credible explanation as to how they arrived there. As you say, giving an account as to why someone has changed is vital; readers notice if someone was wise in one book and without good cause acting like a self-absorbed idiot in the next.
    Enjoy the voyage though, surging through those storms can be quite exhilarating.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’ve definitely been there and done that, Roger. Right now I have more than a smidge of doubt about the WIP, but that’s what the second (and third, and fourth) draft is for.
      Thanks for the encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m almost exactly where you are, Audrey. I’m also writing a sequel (my first). I thought it would be easier, already knowing a lot of the characters and in some ways it is, but like you, I’ve forgotten what some of them know and did. I don’t remember the details of any of my books and I have scribbled many little notes to remind me to check.

    And I didn’t know that sinking feeling before I face the keyboard had a name πŸ˜‰ I’m definitely suffering from First Draft Daily Anxiety Syndrome! You’ve made me feel so much better… πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad my post was helpful, Chris. One problem with my page a day, handwritten first draft approach is I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff about the beginning of the work in progress. Typing it up will be interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. First draft daily anxiety syndrome, yeah, I can relate. The anxiety lingers, though, if I don’t write first thing in the morning. I turn off all my notifications and write for an hour. (Except Sundays.) Then I revisit the keyboard when I can during the day/night until that day’s goal is reached. I’m definitely less focused later in the day, though, so I try to write as much as I can before noon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s pretty much my approach, Priscilla. If I put in the time at the beginning of the day, I escape those twinges of guilt for the rest of it. It was easier to stick to the plan before gardening season revved up.

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  4. I must admit, I’m not as disciplined as you, Audrey, setting a daily output. Sometimes I can sit and write solidly for hours, then delete half of what I wrote. Other times, nothing comes for days, and I end up distracted by all the others things a laptop can do. At such times writing is like encouraging a shy cat, pretending to ignore it but without quite taking one’s eye off it, and trusting it’ll come eventually, when you’re not trying too hard.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I hear you, Audrey. I am writing the 9th book in my Amanda Travels series and I have to make sure Amanda is still the Amanda my readers have grown to love. I like to sit outside on my terrace and write, but I don’t have a specific time of day. I do, however, write every day. Good luck with this one!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! That might explain some “rushed” endings. I keep tripping over questions like, “Is that logical?” or “Why would they do x instead of y?” Where x is what I really want to do. But at least I know the broad strokes of the ending by now.

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      1. I tried writing a novel for a Writing for Women Course. I also tried to revive it when I joined a new Read and Critique Group–it lasted through 2 more chapters and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with the character. I figured if I didn’t care, why should anybody else. I have this fantasy of moving to Key West and writing the great American sleaze novel, but not sure I would want my name attached to it.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I like your honesty about writing. People tend to gloss over the difficulties. I’m floundering with my own writing project at present too. I’m trying to do a structural edit on a first draft. I’m finding it really hard and am wondering whether ditching the project might be the best option for me. πŸ™‚ Good luck with your book. I can identify with the problems you are encountering.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Suzanne. There have been times when I’ve been tempted to scrap the WIP, or at least take a really long break from it. It’s good to step away for a short time, though, to let some new ideas collect in the brain.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I also find the first draft of a story incredibly difficult and stressful, Audrey. It gives me headaches. I do write my series all at once, so I avoid the “having to remember” stuff, (since I can’t remember). But that makes for a really really long first draft!! 85% is great. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Like Diana, I write the entire series in one go, now. Unfortunately, I didn’t with Vokhtah and I don’t think I have ever found a book as hard to write as this second one in the series. Honestly, at times it has felt like pulling teeth. To the point where I’ve often wondered whether I’ve lost it, where it is the joy I used to find in storytelling. Some days it’s so bad I actually prefer vacuuming. 😦
    Things are starting to go well again, but I empathise with every word re details and memory. Apart from the obvious, I think 2nd, 3rd books in a series are also harder because so much is set in concrete. With the first book you can let your imagination run away with you because anything is possible [within reason]. After the first book though…. -sigh-

    Best of luck with the WIP. 85% is massive. Hopefully once the end hoves into sight, the words will just flow of their own accord. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was hoping that would happen, but there’s a little imp that keeps popping up and asking me “But is that logical?” every time I make a plot decision. The devil really is in the details. Still the end is on the horizon for sure. Thanks for your thoughts on this!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh god yes. That’s why even when I am plotting, the plot keeps changing. Sometimes only in very small ways, but like you, I hate HATE HATE! it when writers fudge something just to make it fit ‘the plot’. If the character wouldn’t really do ‘that’, then change the ‘that’ instead. -grump-
        Sorry, having just had to do exactly that myself, I’m feeling a wee bit raw. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi.
    Currently, I’m taking time off to “live.” I tend to do my best writing between the hours of 9pm-3am. During the day, too much is happening from my family talking to me or my own fault of being seduced by Instagram and tiktok so my writing tends to be thoughts and ideas if not incomplete paragraphs where I later forget where I was headed with the idea.
    I solely use my laptop and google docs. this way when an idea pops into my head at 4am when I’m about to finally go to sleep, I can use my phone to jot it down and save the memory.
    I began my novel last summer as a quarantine hobby and put a pause on it around 45k. Early this year I came back to it. I decided I no longer wanted it to be in third-person and instead first. I rewrote it to about 30k with story changes before once again changing my mind. I’m now back on third-person and have 70k of words I love. My goal is a complete story which will likely take another 25k.
    What I wish I had never done was edit before I finished. It’s caused so much self-doubt and has slowed my writing process drastically.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s one reason I handwrite my first drafts–editing that stuff just doesn’t work. I start to edit when I type the handwritten draft into Word, and expect to spend considerable effort whipping the “brain dump” into shape. Good luck with your project, Chels!

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  10. That thing of, ‘once I get going the scene just flows’ is what shifted my arse into high gear. When we’re in that place it’s easy to write. πŸ˜€ … getting there in a bugger though! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It never does get easier, I’m afraid, but that’s also part of the fun of being a creator. I stick to my commitment to write in the morning until lunch. Before the weather turned warm I did a little more in the afternoon but, like you, the garden calls. Working outside allows me to think about what I’ve written and come up with changes to plot points, etc., so in a way, I’m also editing πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I hate first drafts. I dread sitting down with it every day and will usually try to make excuses to avoid it. But as you said, once I force myself into the chair, the scene takes on a life of its own and my characters begin speaking to me. But I still dread the first draft every single time.

    Liked by 1 person

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